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Paula Guran editor
The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2010
Reviewed by: Mario Guslandi © 2010

Prime Books
USA Trade Paperback, First Edition
ISBN 978-1-607-01233-7
Publication Date: 10-19-2010
544 pages, $15.99
Date Reviewed: 11-25-2010

Index:  Horror  Fantasy  General Fiction

Editor Paula Guran has joined the Year's Best Horror club (so far constituted by veterans Ellen Datlow and Stephen Jones) by delivering a first, massive anthology devoted to the "best" dark fiction published in 2009, for a total of thirty-eight stories and 544 pages. The TOC of the volume shows only four overlaps with the Datlow volume (stories by Michael Marshall Smith, Norman Prentiss, Dale Bailey and Nathan Ballingrud, Suzy McKee Charnas) and two with Jones' Best New Horror (Michael Marshall Smith and Ramsey Campbell).

Guran appears to be more eclectic in her choices and that's probably the reason also of the higher number of tales she has selected under the label "dark fantasy & horror". In her Introduction Guran tries to explain what she means by those two terms, but in the end — and rightly so — she concedes that dark fantasy is a bit like pornography : you know it when you read it.

I must confess that, as sometimes the case with the Datlow and Jones Year's Best anthologies, I don't agree with a fair amount of Guran's selection. We have different backgrounds, different tastes and are coming from different subcultures, so what scares and unsettles me can be different too.

On the other hand, as a long time reader and humble reviewer of supernatural and horror fiction, I must say that when a story is really good everyone should be able to recognize it. Once again: you know it when you read it. And in the present volume there are plenty of stories (some that I already knew, others that I discovered therein for the first time) which are truly excellent, first off all Norman Prentiss' outstanding "In the Porches of My Ears" firstly appeared in issue 18 of the PS Publishing Postscripts series.

The story is a veritable gem ,an insightful, moving piece starting out with a whispering voice in a darkened cinema and ending up in a sad life tragedy.

Another exceptional piece is "Vic" by Maura McHugh, an obscure, enigmatic , atmospheric piece of rare beauty featuring an ailing boy, an ambiguous mother and an irresolute father. Behind all that, a dark mystery lies.

In the superbly told "Certain Death for a Known Person" by Steve Duffy the hypothesis that another person's destiny could depend on one's casual choice is developed with unexpected results.

A kid game gone wrong ("Monsters") offers Stewart O'Nan the opportunity to draw a convincing, captivating tableau of daily life in a small community.

Joe Lansdale's "Torn Away" is a strange, fine story about a man deprived of his shadow, while Marc Laidlaw's "Leng" is a fascinating tale about unearthly meditation and spirituality, set in Tibet among monasteries and rare, alien mushrooms.

In the splendid "The Brink of Eternity" Barbara Roden provides a charming account of the dangers and the irresistible appeal of the arctic explorations.

Robert Davies contributes "Bruise for Bruise", an offbeat tale set in a weird town , featuring a weird goodness-like girl who finally meets love and Michael Marshall Smith "What Happens When You Wake Up In the Night", a deliciously creepy tale exploring the possible effects of waking up in the night in total darkness.

Gemma Files displays a solid narrative style in the perceptive "The Jacaranda Smile" addressing the complexities of some family arrangements, while Sarah Pinborough disquiets and upsets with "The Nowhere Man", where the apprehensions of a young boy with a dying mother and a missing sister become terribly real.

"Respects" is a typical Ramsey Campbell story squeezing horror from the events of ordinary life, where the family of a deceased young thief stalks a blameless woman.

Further stories featured in the anthology will doubtless captivate other readers and please different reviewers, because in such a huge book, offering such a wide selection of tales, anyone fond of good fiction will find material well worth reading.

Review Archive
All Reviews alphabetized by author.

General Fiction
Non-Genre, general fiction and literature.

Supernatural fiction, supernatural horror and non-supernatural horror.

Science Fiction
Science fiction, science fantasy, speculative fiction, alternate history.

Fantasy, surrealism and magic realism.

Crime, thrillers, mystery, suspense.

Non-Fiction, True Crime, Forteana, Reference.


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